Finding Our Way Home

Finding Our Way Home

I was devastated last December when I visited my beloved Açores. On the island where we stayed, where they have more cows than people, you can not buy fresh milk. Only shelf stable, highly processed UHT milk is allowed (allowed?!) to be sold. It’s heartbreaking and disgraceful.

Sao Jorge, Açores (photo by Emily)

How did this agricultural community lose its way, and become a hostage of agribusiness? Surely, economics had a role. It always does.

A sense of place

I have spent the last year and a half exploring the meaning of “home” and I’m starting to circle around the theme that consistently comes up for me — community.

But what does that mean? It’s tossed around, empty of meaning or gravitas. For me, community means a sense of place.

Here are the elements that make up community for me:

Hosting gatherings in comfortable, welcoming spaces, preferably amid natural surroundings. Connecting with meaningful conversation over fresh food and local wine. Nurturing the body and the soul.

What does this have to do with my dismay over agribusiness? Because when large companies take over our food and create long, complicated supply chains between the source and our table, we lose our sense of place.

Over the last 20 years, California has awakened to the importance of smaller food producers. Inspired by the Slow Food movement, discerning consumers have demanded more information about their food — the nutrition and fairness of it.

This has led to a style of cooking and eating that I want to explore in Portugal. It’s a commitment to the delicate freshness of seasonal foods, prepared with a light touch, just enough to highlight nuances but to protect texture and color.

This melding of California and Portugal is basically me — I am 100% Portuguese by birth (nature), and 100% Californian by culture (nurture).